6 Conspiracy Theories That Had 'Yikes' Real-World Effects
If you wanted wild-eyed conspiracy theories back in the day, you had to physically subscribe to a magazine about Dwight Eisenhower inventing masturbation to destroy the American family. These days, social media has made it easier than ever to hear totally insane things and then decide that, for some reason, you want to believe them. And the craziest theories have a disturbing way of spilling over into real life. Like how ...
QAnon Killed A Mafia Boss
In March 2019, Gambino family boss Francesco "Frankie Boy" Cali was shot dead outside his Staten Island home. That might sound like a normal morning in Staten Island, but this was the most high-profile mob killing since 1985. Naturally, the death sparked a media frenzy, with fears that a new Mafia war could erupt. But the truth turned out to be much weirder. The dude was killed by a QAnon believer.
Anthony Comello pulled the trigger for reasons that would require several skeins of red string to explain, but we'll try to give you the gist. QAnon holds that President Trump is waging a secret war against an elite conspiracy of high-ranking cannibalistic pedophiles, but he needs the public's help, which is why one of his allies posts regular anonymous updates as "Q." Logical enough, right?
So what did Cali supposedly have to do with any of this? It's not clear! Comello somehow identified him as a member of the "deep state" and decided to perform a citizen's arrest. He'd tried that before with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who famously snatches children while swooping over the city on leathery bat wings, and Maxine Waters, a dangerously violent criminal mastermind cunningly disguised as an elderly politician.
None of those attempts worked out, but Comello hadn't succeeded at doing anything illegal yet, so he was free to turn his attention on Frankie Boy, who lived near him. Frankie Boy, having no idea what was going on and having a certain set of conditioned responses, reached for his gun as Comello approached, so Comello shot him 10 times before fleeing. Thankfully, he was arrested before this could spark a mob war, but on the downside, this does leave us defenseless against Chuck Schumer's legion of goat-masked death troopers.
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Hundreds Of Live Streamers Descended On Arizona To Investigate A Nonexistent Child-Trafficking Camp
Lewis Arthur is a sovereign-citizen-style conspiracy theorist so weird and off-putting that the Bundy family keeps kicking him out of events, which is kind of like being asked to leave the furry convention for being too yiffy. When Arthur announced that he had discovered evidence of a child sex-trafficking camp in a random patch of desert outside Tucson in 2018, local police rejected his claims, saying that not everybody camping outside was necessarily part of an elite global vampire conspiracy. Instead they concluded that Arthur had stumbled on an old homeless camp.
That really should have ended things. It did not. There was no evidence of child trafficking, but the claims went viral online, and hundreds of believers converged on the area to patrol the desert for sex criminals. Disturbed local residents suddenly found themselves living near a heavily armed encampment where nutjobs screamed around on ATVs, live-streaming their search for the child smugglers of the Cemex corporation (the Mexican cement company which owned the land and quickly became central to the theory). In one case, they trespassed on private property, stomping through an empty ranch house and declaring a former child's bedroom as evidence that abducted kids were held there.
Concerned locals formed their own groups to fight back online, and Lewis himself is currently fighting criminal charges. The remains of his group, however, are still in Arizona, where they're locked in a vicious feud with other right-wing groups over the best spots to live-stream the Mexican border.
A Rollerskating Rink Had To Disconnect Its Phone After People Became Convinced It Staged A False-Flag Sword Fight
David Miles is the founder of the Church of Eight Wheels, a popular San Francisco roller rink that was involved in an unfortunate incident earlier this year. Apparently a patron was enjoying a nice skate while wearing a MAGA hat and carrying a large sword, as one does, whereupon he was approached by another skater who knocked the hat off his head. This angered the man, who immediately drew his sword, sliced the guy's hand in half, and bravely fled, pursued by the victim, who wasn't about to let a little dismemberment end the duel.
The incident was shocking for the CoEW staff, who suddenly found themselves as background extras in some kind of Trump-era remake of The Warriors. But things were about to get much worse. An early news report wrongly stated that the victim, not the sword guy, was wearing the MAGA hat. Although this was quickly corrected, the discrepancy was seized on by conspiracy theorists on social media, who decided that the whole thing was a false flag staged by the deep state to make Trump supporters look bad.
That sounds hilarious, but it had genuine consequences for poor David Miles, who had posted on Facebook about the attack, and even included a picture of bloodstains and the dropped MAGA hat. This caused the conspiracy theorists to fixate on him, claiming that he had staged the photo as part of a fake news campaign to defame honest sword-wielding American idiots.
As the accusations spread online, Miles found himself bombarded by angry calls and messages accusing him of staging the attack. It got so bad that he had to disconnect the phone lines to the roller rink. He also says he gets nervous entering and leaving the building, saying that "it only takes one maniac to believe the conspiracy." Do you know how bad things have to be when you just saw an actual katana attack, and that isn't even your biggest security concern?
A School Fair Had To Be Cancelled After Twitter Users Became Convinced James Comey Was Going To Bomb It
Grass Valley Charter is a tiny school in the Sierra foothills of Northern California. Every year they hold the Blue Marble Jubilee fundraiser, an adorably named outdoor fair beloved by the community. Sadly, this year's fair had to be abandoned after QAnon believers decided former FBI Director James Comey was planning to overwhelm the fairground with waves of suicide bombers as part of his sinister deep state war on the president. Because if you want to take down the most powerful people in the world, you obviously start with small-town bake sales.
This all started when Comey, apparently experiencing a little early retirement boredom, took part in the popular #FiveJobsIHad hashtag on Twitter. This attracted the attention of QAnon enthusiasts, who decided that "FiveJobsIHad" actually stood for "Five Jihad." If you think clicking that link is going to explain the logic behind that interpretation, don't bother. They then took the first letter of each of Comey's jobs to make GVCSF. Googling that jumble of letters turned up the Grass Valley Charter School Foundation and the upcoming fair. So naturally, they decided that Comey was dropping a Riddler-style clue about his intent to wage jihad on a tiny school fundraiser.
The poor employees of Grass Valley Charter School suddenly found themselves bombarded with emails and calls from across the country, warning that a former FBI director was probably going to detonate a suitcase nuke in the cotton candy booth. After a presumably depressing crash course in internet hysteria, school officials decided to cancel the fair -- not because they believed the conspiracy, but because they feared a bunch of QAnon people were going to show up and create their own safety hazard. This wasn't a movie, so there was no last-minute rally to defeat the evil edgelords and save the fair, just a lot of sad babies robbed of their sacred American right to puke funnel cake into a ball pit.
A Professor Turned His English Class Into A QAnon Seminar For Two Years
Imagine you're a community college student attending a required English class, and after the professor introduces himself, he hits play on a 14-minute YouTube video about child-molesting cannibals in Washington. He follows this up with a rant about how JFK Jr. faked his death to launch a guerrilla war against the Satanists in the porn industry. Welcome to Mesa Community College, where English professor and fanatic QAnon believer Douglas Belmore earns a RateMyProfessor page full of comments like "His lectures are 20% actually learning English, 80% conspiracy theories and rants about his right-leaning views."
Belmore apparently got away with his shenanigans for a while because his class was basically impossible to fail. While one student admitted that "you have politics being spouted at you for an hour instead of being taught actual English stuff," they also noted that it was "a chill class because he goes over the quizzes with us." Now there's someone who knows what's important about the college experience. After The Phoenix New Times broke the story, however, the school fired Belmore, allowing him to pursue his true calling as a Julian Assange lookalike.
Related: Who Got The Ball Rolling On QAnon?
Random Businesses Are Still Getting Accused Of Ritual Child Abuse
You probably remember Pizzagate, the conspiracy theory that a D.C. pizzeria was in fact a front for a sprawling underground child trafficking complex. The idiocy famously moved offline when an armed believer charged into the restaurant and fired a rifle as part of an attempt to rescue kids from the nonexistent basement. It turns out that was only the tip of the iceberg, as conspiracy theorists keep fixating on random small businesses that definitely are centers for an Illuminati pederasty conspiracy.
In January 2018, Toronto ice cream chain Sweet Jesus was deluged with phone calls and emails threatening staff and accusing them of running a pedophile ring. Message board users pored over the chain's ads, seeking hidden patterns. It seems pretty unlikely that scooping out rocky road is ideal training for scooping out hearts in the Temple of Doom, but that didn't stop the same thing from happening to Portland's Voodoo Doughnut. After a YouTube video popularized the conspiracy, users bombarded the shop with threatening calls and social media posts based on bulletproof evidence like the slogan "Good things come in pink boxes" sounding kind of dirty. Which it does, because that's the joke. But it is literally impossible to explain a joke to a conspiracy theorist.
That particular furor has since died down, presumably because there's only so long you can be mad at pastries. But Voodoo is unlikely to be the last small business targeted by the internet's finest Rust Cohle wannabes. Just keep in mind that one week you could be happily making falafel somewhere, and the next you could be fending off hordes of shut-ins screaming about adrenochrome harvesting.
For more, check out The Truth Behind Every Internet Conspiracy Theory:
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